Having spent a few days in Tokyo, I paid a quick visit to Kawaguchiko (beautiful lake, lovely mountain, no craft beer), then made the long, difficult trek to Kanazawa on Japan’s north west coast. There, I could experience three things I’ve been particularly keen to try: Omicho, Japan’s largest fresh food market; Kenrokuen, one of Japan’s three great parks; and Oriental Brewing’s taproom, because I always love a taproom.
Yuwaku Yuzu Ale 5.0%
湯涌ゆずエール, as it’s known locally, is a white ale brewed with yuzu. A few years ago, you might be forgiven for not having come across yuzu before; now it’s a staple of pretentious cocktail bars all over the world, so there’s a good chance you’ll have found yuzu zest grated on whatever variant on a pornstar martini you’ve ordered (as a joke, you insist, though really you like the little passion fruit skin filled with prosecco).
The Yuwaku is cloudy and pale yellow, with a fresh, citrussy (yuzuey?) aroma, and underlying hints of coriander seed.
Its initial hit on the tongue is more yuzu, a sweet and sour mix of lemon, lime, and mandarin orange, but following that there’s more coriander and wheaty sweetness. It coats the mouth without feeling sticky. I’m enjoying the texture. Yuzu follows once more, faintly, on the finish.
This is a worryingly drinkable beer. 4/5
Kima Beer 5.0%
I’m just hoping きまビール isn’t keema as in the naan. I prefer my beers not to be stuffed with minced lamb.
While it’s not a curry staple, the Kima Beer is spiced: it’s flavoured with Japanese pepper, or sancho. That gives it a very different nose to the Yuwaku ale, led by green peppercorns and followed up with lemongrass.
The taste is intensely citrussy at first, almost tasting of yuzu again, before the peppery flavours develop and a cranberry sweetness arrives with the wheat. Citrus on the finish again, but much less dry than the Yuwaka. Distinctly quaffable, and not a scrap of minced lamb to be seen. 4/5
Kaga Roasted Tea Stout 5.0%
There’s just something about Oriental Brewing’s beers: without exception, every last one is precisely 5% ABV. Perhaps there’s something especially auspicious about the number five.
加賀棒茶スタウト is a dark, clear stout with a coarse bubble structure. There’s less tea and smoke on the nose than I’d perhaps hoped: there is some smoke, but it hides behind stronger tones of black malt and (overroasted) coffee.
The mouthfeel is intensely smooth, carrying flavours of chocolate and more smoke. It’s only on the finish that we finally get some smokey tea flavours.
It feels a bit like they’ve used too much patent malt and not enough tea in order to justify this beer’s name. It’s fine, as stouts go, but not as pleasant as the other two Oriental Brewing beers I tried. 2/5